One reason we carry out the ConservativeHome survey of Party members each month is that there is generally a paucity of public information about the Tory grassroots think, believe and want.
For obvious reasons, a relatively narrow demographic is hard to reach, which makes it hard even for major pollsters to recruit panels, or to then judge how representative their demographics are for the purposes of weighting.
Our survey, of course, is not a weighted poll. It puts questions – some repeated each month, some topical – to a panel of over 3,000 Party member readers of this site, of whom normally over 1,000 take part each time.
Therefore its results are inherently imperfect, but still useful. For a start, one can at least track trends by seeing the change in responses from previous months. We also check our findings against the rare published results of scientific polling by YouGov and others, and make public those comparisons so that readers can judge for themselves how reliable or otherwise the survey findings are.
Today offers just such an opportunity for comparison. Professor Tim Bale, of Queen Mary University of London, has released the findings of the latest polling for the ESCR Party Members Projectt.
The research makes for interesting generally – and includes some alarming figures for the Conservative leadership about the proportion of members who have recently considered quitting the Party, in particular.
It also features some questions which can be compared, fairly directly, to those we ask in our survey. So here goes.
What proportion of Conservative members voted Leave?
Bale: “Some 72 per cent of grassroots Tory members...voted Leave in 2016″.
ConservativeHome’s final survey before the referendum found 70.6 per cent of respondents either firmly Leave or leaning to Leave.
How do grassroots Tories rate May’s deal?
Bale: “Among actual members of the Conservative Party, opposition to the deal negotiated by their own leader outweighs support for it by a margin of 59 per cent to 38 per cent.”
ConservativeHome’s most recent survey found 71 per cent of Party members do not support the Prime Minister’s deal, compared to 25.9 per cent who do. That’s a sizeable enough gap to be notable – our survey has support 12 points lower and dissatisfaction 12 points higher than Bale’s poll.
There are a number of factors that could explain the discrepancy (most likely a mixture is at play). Perhaps the ConHome panel is simply a bit more Eurosceptic (or less loyal) than the wider membership, or at least than Bale’s cohort. At the same time, it’s worth noting there is a slight but significant difference in the questions being asked: our 71 per cent were answering that they “do not support” which is a little easier Toby sign up to than Bale’s outright “oppose”.
Certainly such criteria can affect an answer. For example, when Bale asked a somewhat less restrictive question, he also found that “68 per cent of the Tory rank and file think the government is doing badly at negotiating the country’s exit from the EU.”
These discrepancies are worth being aware of, and studying, but it’s also the case that the headline finding is agreement on both measures that a strong majority of members do not support the Prime Minister’s position. ConservativeHome’s survey was strongly criticised in some quarters when we reported that to be the case, but Bale bears it out.
Support for No Deal?
Bale: “We asked ordinary members…what their first preference would be in a three-way referendum where the options were (a) remaining in the EU, (b) leaving with the proposed deal, or (c) leaving without a deal… 57 per cent of them say that leaving without a deal would be their first preference compared to just 23% whose first preference was to leave on the basis of the current deal and only 15% saying it was to remain.”
Bale: “…when we asked about a referendum in which the choice came down to her deal or No Deal. Only 29 per cent of Tory members would vote for Mrs May’s deal, compared to 64 per cent who would vote to leave without a deal.”
The latest ConservativeHome survey found support for No Deal to be members’ preferred outcome, with that position hardening at 44.3 per cent.
In this instance, far from overstating Tory Euroscepticism our No Deal finding is dramatically lower than Bale’s. The reasons seems likely to be that our question offered more options, including a Canada Plus response.
A second referendum?
Bale: “support among the membership for a new referendum is likewise minimal, at just 14 per cent compared to 82 per cent who oppose holding one.”
Our latest survey found 9.5 per cent of members supporting a second referendum, and 89 per cent opposed.
In summary, while there are certainly some differences between our survey’s findings and those of Bale’s poll – differences which should be born in mind when assessing our results – the headline positions are quite strikingly similar. A large majority of Tory members voted Leave and oppose May’s Deal. No Deal is now their single most preferred outcome. And an overwhelming proportion oppose a second referendum.